Ohio’s New Learning Standards Get Needed Clarification

The new learning standards implemented over the last three academic years in Ohio in Mathematics, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies have begun to generate criticism Concerns range from questions about the privacy of student data, the source/developer of the learning standards, and whether local school districts retain the authority to decide the curricula for their schools.

Amendments made by the Ohio Senate to the mid-biennium review legislation on K-12 education, House Bill 487, attempt to address some, if not most, of these concerns related to the new standards. Those amendments would:

 1.  Prohibit any official of the state or state board of education from entering into an agreement or memorandum of understanding that gives up any measure of control over the development, adoption or revision of academic content standards;

2.  Require that the state board of education provides strict safeguards to protect the confidentiality of personally identifiable student data;

3.  Direct the state board of education to adopt new academic content standards that:

a.    Emphasize “essential knowledge” instead of “rigor” as in current law;

b.    Include the essential academic content and skills students are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level (as opposed to “core” content and skills as in current law); and,

c.    Instill life-long learning by providing essential knowledge and skills based in the liberal arts tradition, as well as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and career-technical education.

4.  Delay the Ohio Department of Education plan to assign overall letter grades to school districts in the 2014-15 academic year and prohibits the report cards for that year from being considered in determining any sanctions or penalties for any schools;

5.  States explicitly that the local board of a school district is the sole authority in determining and selecting textbooks, instructional materials, and academic curriculum for its schools; and,

6.  Allows the local board of a school district to permit educators to create instructional materials consistent with the board-adopted curriculum.

 At the Ohio Chamber, we believe that an educated, highly skilled workforce is critical to Ohio’s economic strength and prosperity.